How to Create A Minimal And Beautiful Desktop With Conky

Conky is a simple, lightweight system monitor application that can display information on your desktop and allows you to monitor several processes simultaneously. For those who like to keep a minimal desktop, but still want to have quick access to various information such as emails, weather, memory usage etc, then Conky is just the application for you.

conky-screenshot

While the installation of Conky is easy, configuring it can be a rather troublesome task. Follow this tutorial closely and I am sure you’ll master the trick in no time.

Click here to install Conky on your Ubuntu machine. Alternatively, open your terminal (“Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal”) and type:

Once the installation is completed, type in the terminal:

To test if conky is working, in the terminal, type

A window will pop up showing all your system information. Other than the background which is your own wallpaper, the information will be the same as the one shown in the image below.

conky-window

Close the conky window. We are now going to configure it to display the information that we want and also to change its color to match those of your wallpaper.

Go to your Home folder (“Places -> Home”). Press “Ctrl + H” to show hidden files. Scroll down till you found the file “.conkyrc”. Double click to open it in Text editor. This is the main config file that will affect what is showing on your desktop.

Scroll down the list and make sure the following configuration are set properly. Make sure that these settings do not have a ‘#’ in front. If yes, remove them.

The above configurations are the default setting that I used in my system. When you are more familiar with it, you can change it to suit your needs. When you are done with the configuration setting, leave this aside for a while. We will get back to it later.

We need to install additional package in order for Conky to display new mail and weather forecast on your desktop.

In your terminal,

Add the following line to the end of the file.

Save and close.

Back to your terminal,

Now, go to Weather.com and sign up a partner account. This will enable you to enquire the weather information in your city.

weather-signup

Once you have signed up, check your mailbox for the confirmation email. Scroll down the mail until you see your Partner ID and License key.

weather-key

Back to your terminal,

Fill in the “XOAP_Partner_ID” and “XOAP_License_key” fields with the information from the confirmation email. Save and exit.

On your browser, go to http://xoap.weather.com/search/search?where=YOUR_CITY and replace YOUR_CITY with the name of your city. You will see a xml similar to the image below. Record down the id. This is the identifier for your city and you will need it later on.

weather.com xml file

Back to your .conkyrc file, scroll down to until you see the line

As stated in the statement, anything that is placed under the word TEXT will be displayed on the screen. There is a certain syntax that you need to follow to get it to display correctly and beautifully.

The following is my configuration. You are free to copy and modify.

Some of the commonly used syntax involve:

${font Verdana:style=Bold:size=12} – This means setting the displayed font to “Verdana” of size 12 and bold. You can modify the font or the size to suit your desktop. A thing to note is that it only supports fonts that are installed in your system. To get new fonts, you can go to dafont.com and download your favorite fonts at no charge at all.

${execi 3600 …} – The “execi” syntax allows you to execute external scripts. Note that we use the execi syntax to check your email address, weather forecast and also to read a TODO list file and output to the screen. The number behind the “execi” determines the interval (in sec) for Conky to execute the scripts.

$hr / $stippled_hr – This is to insert a horizontal line in the screen. The “$stippled_hr” syntax refers to a dotted line.

${execi 3600 conkyForecast --location=SNXX0006 --datatype=LT} – This is the execution code to retrieve Weather information from Weather.com. Note that you need to replace the --location=xyz by your city’s identifier.

${execi 600 conkyEmail --servertype=IMAP --servername=imap.googlemail.com --username=xyz --password=xyz --ssl} – This is the execution code to retrieve information from your Gmail and Yahoo mail account. To enable IMAP service, you will need to enable the IMAP setting in your Gmail account (“Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP”)

${execi 30 cat /home/damien/TODO.txt} – This is the execution code to read my TODO list file located in my Home folder and display it on the screen

For more information on the syntax, check out the Conky variable site.

When you are done with your setting, in your terminal, type

to get it running, and

to terminate it.

Go to “System -> Preferences -> Sessions” and click “Add”. Fill in the field as shown below

conky session setting

Conky will now load up automatically next time you log in to your system.

This is a screenshot of my Conky setup. Not really the best, but it does clean up my desktop in an elegant style.

conky-screenshot

I am sure you have a much better setup than mine.